n SA Mercantile Law Journal = SA Tydskrif vir Handelsreg - Unfair enforcement of a contract : a step in the right direction? and : case note

Volume 27, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1015-0099
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2185



It is well-established that a contractual provision that is not, per se, illegal will not be enforced if the enforcement would be contrary to public policy (see e.g. 2010 (4) SA 261 (ECM) paras 81-4; 2010 (4) SA 468 (SCA) para 47; 2011 (3) SA 25 (GNP) paras 18-22). In applying this principle, the Supreme Court of Appeal has adopted the somewhat dogmatic position that merely because enforcement of a contractual provision would produce an unfair or unreasonable result does not make the enforcement offensive to public policy (see e.g. 2010 (4) SA 468 (SCA) paras 50-52 ; 2011 (5) SA 19 (SCA) paras 22-25; 2012 (1) SA 637 (SCA) paras 31-34; cf also 2002 (4) SA 1 (SCA) paras 11-12). In 2014 (4) SA 124 (CC), the Constitutional Court effectively rejected this approach by accepting that, on the facts of that case, unfairness or unreasonableness was, in itself, a sufficient ground for declining to enforce a contractual provision. The judgment in 's case is unsatisfactory in certain respects (not least of which its failure to mention, let alone consider, the appeal court cases referred to above) but, being a judgment of the Constitutional Court, it may well be regarded as marking the beginning of a new judicial attitude to unfair enforcement of contractual terms.

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